Poverty in Zambia: A Context for Religious Response


Night fishing in Zambia; photo by Felix Clay/Duckrabbit 2012; reproduced here under the Creative Commons License

Richard Chimfwembe’s doctoral thesis (University of Pretoria, 2013), available as a free pdf download, reflects extensively on the role of pastoral care in nurturing practical improvements in the lives of the rural poor. The Rev. Dr. Chimfwembe leads theological education by extension for the United Church of Zambia.

In this work, Dr. Chimfwembe examines the role of pastoral care in nurturing practical improvements in the lives of the rural poor in contemporary Zambia. In Zambia, people are politically free but materially still very poor 49 years after independence. Many live below the poverty line and those living in rural areas suffer the greatest poverty, with many men fleeing to cities to seek employment, often abandoning the elderly, women and children. The levels of poverty in Zambia have reached a crisis, and the church in Zambia is challenged in its efforts to improve living conditions and transformative political liberation. The author argues that contemporary efforts may benefit from lessons of history, including those of missionaries whose external evangelism also helped to strengthen community development. Speaking directly to leaders in the United Church of Zambia, the author argues that economic freedom is a reality which cannot be separated from people’s daily life, and that religious communities must learn to listen and act as ‘a midwife’ and a place of safety, willing to suffer with the poor, for the sake of the poor. Eight chapters explore aspects of such a response in detail:

Chapter 1: The researcher’s personal experiences with poverty in interacting with the rural poor in Zambia;

Chapter 2: Methods and approach;

Chapter 3: Literature review on pastoral care, practical theology, liberation theology and the concepts of poverty. Locates pastoral care within a practical theological framework;

Chapter 4: Biblical and theological reflections on the church’s pastoral role amongst the poor;

Chapter 5: The problem of poverty in Zambia;

Chapter 6: The role of the church in the social pastoral ministry when it relates to pastoring the rural poor;

Chapter 7: Analysis of a model of pastoral care that may help the United Church of Zambia to be more effective in her response to poverty alleviation. Includes discussion on ways of working with poor communities, and a process model;

Chapter 8: Summary of main findings, recommendations, and further research needed, including topics that may be of help to future researchers in practical theology.

Citation: R. Chimfwembe, “Pastoral Care in a Context of Poverty: The Search for a Zambian Contextual Church Response,” PhD diss. Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, 2013.

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